LEONARD Cheshire Cymru’s disability dance competition, Strictly Schools, completed its 2021 season with an ‘evening at the Ballet,’ broadcast as part of the BBC Children in Need Appeal show.

Delivered in partnership with Ballet Cymru, and funded by BBC Children in Need, the programme has reached more than 500 children across Wales.

Strictly Schools 2021 was delivered via the dedication of passionate teachers and dancers, wanting to make a real difference in the lives of children living with a disability. Despite Covid restrictions, the project was delivered through a mix of on-line tutorials, live classes and face-to-face learning.

Louise Lloyd, responsible for access and outreach within Ballet Cymru, said: “Ballet Cymru has loved being part of such a wonderful and uplifting project. It has been a pleasure to witness the growth in the skills and confidence of all those who took part and the joy that dancing brings them.”

Penny Watkins, Inclusion Coordinator at Caldicot School, said it was “a fantastic opportunity to work collaboratively with two amazing companies, on an inclusive project that develops the students in a holistic way.”

She was amazed at the results, as was Rhoswen Rogers, Head of Inclusion at Caldicot School, who said: “The project was engaging and exciting, Caldicot School have had a blast being involved in ‘Strictly Schools’ – so proud to be the winners and excited to take part again next year!”

Emma Wilcox, of Leonard Cheshire Cymru, said: “Delivering Strictly Schools has been empowering and inspiring from start to finish. Seeing the young people discover their confidence as they coproduce their routines has increased their independence and belief that they can achieve anything they put their minds too. This project uses dance to take young disabled people on a journey increasing their sense of self, enhancing their wellbeing whilst creating and developing friendships.”

The four talented winners celebrated with a trip to the ballet in the Newport Live Riverfront, and got to meet the dancers at a backstage party.

Ieuan enjoyed taking part and wants to do it all over again next year, while it made Lily and Ella happy and proud.

Ella summed up the whole ethos of the project as: “I felt ecstatic and happy when I was dancing.”